Mattawa developed because of its strategic location at the junction of the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers. This made Mattawa the crossroads of North America. The exploration of North America from the Artic waters in the north, to the Rocky Mountains in the west as well as the Mississippi Delta to the south occured because explorers came through Mattawa.

In later years the Canadian Pacific Railway started on an existing line just east of Mattawa and proceeded west to the West Coast. The TransCanada Highway and the telephone lines ran parallel to the railway line. Both of them more or less follow the old voyageur canoe route which explains why the town developed from its First Nation Origins.